Reposted from Vision Systems Design  from February 2014 by James Carroll, Senior Web Editor

Robot Demand Chart

Worldwide demand for industrial robots reached an all-time peak in 2013, as approximately 168,000 units were sold in 2013, according to quarterly statistics from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

The number of robot units sold in 2013 was 5% more than in 2012 as a result of increasing automation demands in North America and Asia, according to an IFR press release. In addition, the European market showed signs of improvement in Q4, which may lead to a turnaround year in 2014 after a stagnant overall year in 2013 for the euro-zone market.

One contributing factor in the rise of global robot sales is the technological developments in the market, as well as the rise in industrial requirements, suggests IFR president Arturo Baroncelli. Joe Gemma, IFR Vice President, agreed.

“Those of us in the industry are not surprised by the growth as many factors have contributed to the increase use of robotics worldwide, some of which has been driven directly from the automation equipment manufacturers,” he said in the press release. “The software to work with and run robots and automation cells has developed rapidly over the last few years and the ease of use has transcended into more applications under a very demanding and dynamic manufacturing landscape that would not have been tackled in the past.”

He added, “This has enabled manufacturers to provide products to the market quicker and with flexibility of variations to meet consumer demand and at the same time insure the quality required and the performance demanded.”

Increasing use of automation technologies like robots in the automotive industry worldwide has also contributed significantly to the overall growth in the sector. Yoshikatsu Minami, Corporate Vice President and General Manager Robotics Division, Yaskawa Electric Corporation, said that the demand and usage of automation in the automotive industry has spread to Asia, while also increasing in American and the euro-zone market.

“In comparison to 2012, our shipments have been on the rise in most markets,” he said. “This is mainly led by the automotive industry and is also due to strong demand from the other industries, such as food and beverage, building and construction related sectors.  We expect that demand from the mentioned industries will remain stable in the next few years.”

In addition, strong growth in shipments to non-automotive markets in 2013 is an encouraging sign for the North American and worldwide markets, says Jeff Burnstein, President of the Association for Advancing Automation

“Overall shipments to non-automotive customers rose 31% while automotive related shipments were flat,” he said. “The largest gains in non-automotive markets were in Life Sciences/Pharmaceutical/Biomedical (+142%), food and consumer goods (+61%) and plastics and rubber (+36%). Orders from non-automotive markets were up 22%, a very positive sign for the robotics industry moving forward.”

On June 4, the IFR will hold a CEO roundtable on the topic called “Easy to use robots – challenge and chance to capture new applications and customers.”

View more information on the IFR report.

Global demand for industrial robots hits all-time high in 2013